Public perception of asylum policy assessed in new study

public perception of asylum policy
© iStock/Joel Carillet

A new study on public perception of asylum policy has found Europeans are more likely to support policies offering protection to asylum seekers with set limits and conditions.

The ‘What asylum and refugee policies do Europeans want?: evidence from a cross-national conjoint experiment’ study, which is the first study of its kind, was published by the European University Institute (EUI) last week. Researchers surveyed the opinions of 12,000 respondents in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden; gathering data on public perception of asylum policy and factors affecting citizens’ support for measures on resettlement, family reunification, the regulation of asylum regulations and financial assistance, among other aspects of the asylum system. The study’s authors noted that, while a range of research has been conducted surveying citizens’ attitudes to migration as a whole and significantly less has assessed public opinion on refugees and asylum seekers, very little data is available concerning citizens’ opinions on the actual policies which govern matters of asylum.

Respondents in all the eight Member States covered in the study indicated largely similar opinions on asylum policy, with the majority of respondents in each country – even in Hungary, whose government is notoriously unsympathetic to refugees – expressing overall support for policies designed to help asylum seekers and refugees; although this support was typically contingent on the policies including some type of limits or conditions on the assistance offered.

Martin Ruhs of the Migration Policy Centre at the EUI’s Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, a co-author of the study, said: “We often hear that Europeans are hopelessly divided when it comes to asylum and refugee policies. In contrast, our new research shows remarkable similarities in policy attitudes across European countries: Europeans want to protect asylum seekers and refugees, but they prefer policies that use limits and conditions. Policy makers should take note that people across European countries are more united than divided on this issue.”

The study on public perception of asylum policy, which was conducted as part of the Mercator Dialogue on Asylum and Migration (MEDAM), will be presented at the MEDAM conference, to be held at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels on 16 October.

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